A young Pakistani refugee looks for home in displacement

07 February 2022

Malissa draws her ideal home in displacement
A home in displacement: each room depicts one aspect of the ideal home that Malissa imagines.

“For me, home is a place where I am free, respected, loved, and accepted. It’s where I feel equal, strong, and comfortable, where I can live in peace.”

Since her family left Pakistan for Thailand in 2012 because of religious persecution, Malissa has been searching for a home. She may not have found it yet, but she knows exactly what it would need.

“A home is where there is Peace, Love, Equality, Unity, Humanity, Respect, Justice, Freedom and Family. Home is not made up of just four walls, it’s made up of family, sharing each other’s sorrows and happiness.”

When she arrived in Thailand, Malissa did not expect life to be this hard. “I could have been another person with education and a good future if I were not a refugee.” When asked about her home, she says she does not feel like she has one anymore. Pakistan wasn’t safe and in Thailand she does not feel fully accepted or integrated.

As the youngest child in a family of five, Malissa luckily has the support of her parents and siblings. They encourage her to study and to determine her own future. “I was able to finish Grade 10 and [achieve the high school diploma]. I want to be a psychologist. But I can’t pursue my dream here without documents. I have been stuck and already wasted five years.”

With her soft-spoken personality, people may think Malissa is shy. The truth is, she is already an advocate and dreams of helping people.

To showcase her vision, Malissa drew an ideal home: “I made this home not as a specific home but as a society in one home. I want the society to understand us: we are [forced] migrants, we left our families and made this country our shelter to hide from the harm that we faced within our country.”



On the top I wrote Freedom because we need that, we have no freedom to do what we desire to do. […] We are like that bird in a cage eagerly waiting with this hope to be free from this agony. And I believe that one day for sure this agony will end, and we will be like this bird flying with our open-wide wings. I hope that God has prepared it already, but the right time has not come yet. The boy playing refers to my brother, carefree but sometimes he gets worried of some situation that heats up our families. And this is his passion, he wants to be a soccer player.


From a very young age our mother taught us how to do rosary and it has been always a big aspect, support, and a pillar in our lives. I got the inspiration of this image from my family. In every circumstance our parents taught us to always pray, and nothing can stress or harm you if you hold God’s hand tightly.


This image refers to Education. I love to study so much, me and my siblings are ambitious with our goals and desirable professions. From Pakistan to Thailand my parents have been very supportive towards our studies. They want to give us a better education and a bright future, every parent wishes that. […] Every child deserves education it is one of the basic rights of a child.


Myself and my sister, whenever we are tired of everything going around us and need space and peace, there is one swing near our house, so we go there just to relax and not to overthink about all the things going on around us. […] Sometimes when I feel that may be my prayers are not going directly to God, I look up to the sky and ask them to open its doors so my prayers could reach to God and to be heard.


Why is that we can’t get justice in our country? The criminal always gets free, and the victim always suffers in the society and in court. […] Doctors, police, and judges, these professions are to serve everyone, regardless of their race, religion, or cast, but unfortunately this doesn’t happen. Those refugees they didn’t do anything wrong, they are not criminal, but the only crime is that they don’t have visa and they escaped from their country after suffering from pain.

Freedom for a girl

From birth until a girl turns adult, she never gets justice in Pakistan or anywhere else. They rape her by this thinking that she is weak and cannot fight. Instead of supporting the girl, the society blames her that she must have been wearing something so this happened to her, or she must have given signs to that person, she is characterless… why only girls why they don’t get justice. […] Give freedom to a girl and don’t judge what she wears, what she eats or how she acts, and how she appears.


Family time is the best time when we understand each other. We never experienced spending time together as a big family, we rarely got the chance to go to my mother’s family side in Pakistan. Our lives have been always around our parents and the three of us. […] I love my family so much and I want to see them happy always and I want to fulfill all their desires and wishes.


This image refers to the Society. We want equality, where people treat us as humans not as dogs on the streets. I thank God for this life, but still, we need respect, equality in respect, humanity, and rights.


I would love to be a psychologist because I have seen many people, especially teenagers suffering from depression and hiding things inside them. I want to help people. I’ve been through this stage, but I never leave God’s hand and he never leave mine – that is why I could overcome, but this doesn’t work with everyone. Many people including my own family suffering with negativity. I want to give them a peaceful mind and a positive lifestyle.